Tag Archives: Matt Daw

Public Domain

Public Domain

★★★★

Online from Southwark Playhouse

Public Domain

Public Domain

Online from Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 16th January 2021

★★★★

 

“it’s a refreshing change, really, to find a musical that doesn’t shy away from unpleasant truths of contemporary life”

 

Public Domain is the Southwark Playhouse’s latest production, live streamed from the theatre so that we can view it safely in our own homes. It’s a peppy, up to the minute, musical take on the joys and pitfalls of social media. And appropriately, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole piece is performed by just two actors, Francesca Forristal and Jordan Paul Clarke. Clarke and Forristal also wrote this piece, taking as their inspiration, words and composite characters posting on social media over the last year.

The show opens with a couple of everyday millennials enthusing about the joys of Facebook. They’re looking for connections—with just about anyone. “Just like that we felt a little less alone” they sing, and ironic tone apart, much of the theme of Public Domain seems to be focused on this generation’s fears of not getting enough attention. The show ranges from deftly amplified scenes portraying vloggers on Youtube talking about the anxiety of posting enough, to uneasy musings about whether they would really be better off on Instagram. Francesca Forristal’s manic vlogger is particularly well done, and nicely contrasts with Jordan Paul Clarke’s perennially depressed one, wondering aloud whether all this soul baring to the camera is just free therapy.

All this manic depressive zeal can’t last, of course, and Public Domain soon starts examining the more problematic side of social media. Who manages, and thus controls, all this deeply personal data? Forristal and Clarke switch to American accents, and in an instant, Mark Zuckerberg, earnest CEO of Facebook, and his equally earnest physician wife, Priscilla Chan, are on stage singing “how lucky we are”. Their fervent declaration that “Tomorrow is gonna be better than today” seems unlikely, however, given that their portrayal of happy family life is in-terspersed with scenes of Congress grilling Zuckerberg on rights to privacy. How safe (and how true) is all that data that people upload onto Facebook? From themes of Fake News and data misuse, Public Domain takes an easy leap from Youtube, Facebook and Instagram into the unglued an-tics of TikTok. As Clarke gives us a musical tour of this new social media app, Matt Powell’s video wizardry superimposes TikTok examples on Clarke’s performance. This is a departure from projecting onto a simple backdrop on stage, as one would during a conventional production, and it works quite well. It is, indeed, just one example in Public Domain where the creative team become mothers of invention through the necessity of having to live stream theatre.

Public Domain is a bold attempt at a new kind of theatre forged in irony for our uncertain times. Its sparse lines are seen throughout with a cut down cast, economical direction (Adam Lenson) and in set and costume design (Libby Todd). The songs and lyrics allow more extravagance of expression, but most of the work in this show is carried on the capable shoulders of Clarke and Forristal. And it’s a refreshing change, really, to find a musical that doesn’t shy away from unpleasant truths of contemporary life, even while it celebrates the madness of our angst ridden era.

 

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by The Other Richard

 


Public Domain

Available to stream from www.southwarkplayhouse.co.uk from Tuesday 19 to Sunday 24 January

 

Previously reviewed by Dominica:
The Tempest | ★★★★ | Jermyn Street Theatre | March 2020
Bird | ★★ | Cockpit Theatre | September 2020
Bread And Circuses | ★★½ | Online | September 2020
Minutes To Midnight | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020
Persephone’s Dream | ★★★ | Online | September 2020
The Trilobite | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020
Paradise Lost | ★★★★ | Cockpit Theatre | September 2020
The Legend of Moby Dick Whittington | ★★★★★ | Online | November 2020
Potted Panto | ★★★ | Garrick Theatre | December 2020
Magnetic North | ★★★★ | Online | December 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

The Fabulist Fox Sister

The Fabulist Fox Sister

★★★★

Livestream from Southwark Playhouse

The Fabulist Fox Sister

The Fabulist Fox Sister

Livestream from Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 5th December 2020

★★★★

 

“a staggering performance and an excellent production”

 

If there’s one thing that the past nine months have proven, it’s that online theatre is hard. There’s an energy that doesn’t seem to translate, the lack of audience response feels like a detraction, and you’re beholden to sub-film set cinematography. The Fabulist Fox Sister does something quite special though: in many ways it feels like rather than adapting theatre to an online format, it’s crafting something entirely new. Mostly, it does it exceptionally well.

That’s been the mission statement for director and producer Adam Lenson since lockdown descended; to successfully transpose the theatrical experience into a digital format – and this musical pulls it off with aplomb. The show is livestreamed from the Southwark Playhouse so no spontaneity is lost, the musicians play live and in situ with the actor, and the use of multiple camera angles and shots start to blur the lines between the cinematic and theatrical.

Amidst the flames of this burgeoning new form is the perfect story for it: that of Kate Fox, the ‘mother of all mediums’ who more or less birthed spiritualism, popularising seances with her sisters Leah and Margaret (who in the show form the two-piece keys and percussion band). Framed as Kate’s retirement show, she takes us through the lies, loves, and losses of her life through a stellar performance from Michael Conley. The text is rich with quips, black comedy, and smart callbacks that Conley knows exactly how to work every syllable of – though it’s somewhat expected since he also wrote the book and lyrics. Luke Bateman’s music largely keeps pace, weaving a seamless journey between speech and song, and giving a campy cabaret-style pulse to the show. A couple of songs sound a little too familiar to each other musically but it’s by no means going to ruin your night.

The only thing that did break the immersion was the use of laughter and applause, which I believe came from the crew in the theatre but may well have been canned. Huge belly laughs sounded for some jokes where most received nothing; similarly around three songs received applause at the end. It was unclear if this was trying to signify something and the inconsistency ultimately distracted. If intentional, it was a strange directorial choice from Lenson, who otherwise facilitated a staggering performance and an excellent production overall.

What was most clear was the respect that The Fabulist Fox Sister displayed for the new form that it occupied – it didn’t feel resentful or uncomfortable, but confident and innovative. It bodes very well for the show’s companion piece Public Domain which is livestreaming next week, and for the future of live digital theatre as a whole.

 

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Jane Hobson

 


The Fabulist Fox Sister

Livestream from Southwark Playhouse

 

Recently reviewed by Ethan:
Far Away | ★★½ | Donmar Warehouse | February 2020
Republic | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Ryan Lane Will Be There Now In A Minute | ★★★★ | The Vaults | February 2020
Big | | Network Theatre | March 2020
Stages | ★★★½ | Network Theatre | March 2020
Songs For A New World | ★★★ | Online | July 2020
Entrée | ★★★★ | Online | September 2020
Rose | ★★ | Online | September 2020
Apollo 13: The Dark Side Of The Moon | ★★★★ | Online | October 2020
People Show 138: Last Day | ★★★★ | Online | October 2020

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews